With words like "radical" and "extreme" being liberally flung around, it's probably time to define our terms. After all, vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan, I am assured, embodies both words in deed and spirit.
These days, radical ideas appear in many forms: a plan offering future seniors a choice of health care insurance or one that marginally cuts back on deficit spending or even a plan–when things get really, you know, German–that attempts to balance the budget over two decades.
If a person is to believe his media, he would have to accept that bringing discretionary spending back to 2008 levels, as Ryan has suggested, is like letting a Koch-funded plutocrat in war paint shred the social contract and throw it into a Klan-lit bonfire. Nearly every outlet, every interviewer, every reference about Ryan's plan is imbued with a tone that asks, "Isn't this nuts?"
But adding $11 trillion to the national debt, as Obama's proposed budget does, well, that passes the levelheaded policy test. One day, perhaps when fact checkers take a break from crunching every uncompromising decimal point in Ryan's budget proposal, they can explain how Obama's plan is supposed to work and how spending without end ends—you know, for the kids.
If, that is, they survive. Medicare, as you've also heard, will cease to exist in its present form once free market jihadists storm the White House, abolish the program and exact their revenge on the elderly. And no, forcing Americans to participate in an entitlement mere years from its collapse is not a radical proposition. Rather, offering Americans who are 55 or younger a menu of (slightly more) competitive market options to drive down prices—funded at approximately the same level Obama proposes—can be forever referred to as "controversial."
And when the president carves out $700 billion from Medicare as seed money for a new trillion-dollar entitlement project, we are keeping with our nonradical traditions, even if we have to force everyone to participate. When Ryan proposes similar cuts to extend the life of Medicare, he is a granny-starving Pericles.
Put it this way: Ryan's plan injects the same reactionary idea into Medicare that the average American struggles with every day as he heads out into the marketplace to buy food or furniture or a phone—which, according to many Democrats, is the kind of social Darwinism that no decent person should ever be subjected to.
Which reminds me: If you happen to be attracted to some of the broader ideas in an Ayn Rand book, you, my friend, are an extremist for life. If, on the other hand, your ideological education was provided by an all-star lineup of leftist thinkers, you're good. Certainly, no one is going to demand that you accept or repudiate the teachings of Frank Marshall Davis or Karl Marx in toto.
This is the world we're in. In Washington, extremists stand (somewhat) firm on the idea of preserving decade-long tax rates in a terrible economy, whereas reasonable presidents have no qualms heading toward a fiscal cliff, as long as they have a class-envy tax hike to campaign on (for what is, in the context of spending, a pittance).
As it turns out, radicals provide budgets that curb growth by a few percentage points over many years, whereas rational politicians don't even bother passing budgets.
Then again, Ryan the Unreasonable supported TARP, auto bailouts and Medicare expansions, so we can agree that radicalism does exist. It just depends, I suppose, on how you look at things.